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Benny “The Eagle”, Vol. 7: Processing the Process
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Vol.7 – Processing the Process 

Benny “The Eagle”: Vol. 1
Benny “The Eagle”: Vol. 2 – Having Second Thoughts
Benny “The Eagle”: Vol. 3 – The Used
Benny “The Eagle”: Vol. 4 – The Law of Diminishing Returns
Benny “The Eagle”: Vol. 5 – Something Smells Gamey
Benny “The Eagle”: Vol.6 – Going Around and Around with the Round Ball

When I was twelve, the one thing I wanted for Christmas more than anything was a Sega Genesis. My parents wrapped our gifts and had them under the Christmas tree weeks ahead of time. They took great joy in watching me and my brother lift, shake, tip, and weigh our gifts and try to figure out what was inside. One of the boxes was the perfect size for a Sega Genesis. I KNEW it was a Genesis. It had to be. It’s what I wanted and the gift was the right weight and size. My parents told me it wasn’t a Sega Genesis, but like any kid with half a brain, I knew they were certainly just messing with me. It was obviously a Genesis.

Christmas morning came and as I tore open the box, I quickly came to the realization that it was not in fact a Sega Genesis. It was an appropriately sized box packed with encyclopedias and a brand new LA Kings jersey. I come by my dark sense of humor honestly. You might be thinking it was like living some unfortunate version of “The Sweater” for me, but I was actually still really happy. It was a fine gift. A great gift. Everyone knows what a great gift it was. I LOVED my Wayne Gretzky led Kings at the time. The problem was with me. I wasn’t seeing reality for what it was because I began with the conclusion instead of the data.

As humans, we tend to see what we want to see and can find reasons to continue believing what we believe even if there is evidence to the contrary. We all have cognitive biases that lead us in predictable directions unless we encounter a “disorienting dilemma” in the words of Jack Mezirow. As my wife put it in her Master’s thesis, “The learning that transforms students’ foundational beliefs and ideas must move past the surface to encourage students to engage with their most firmly held understandings and worldviews. Only by grappling with these deeply engrained understandings and worldviews in light of new knowledge and experiences can students come to a fuller understanding of themselves and the world around them.” This is the premise of Transformative Learning Theory: we tend to only learn and grow when something makes our current position non-viable. We then choose whether to painstakingly grow into our new reality, or stick our heads in the sand and pretend “this is fine”.

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Last week I encountered my disorienting dilemma. People all around me were having success using the same tools I was and I was getting nowhere. Something was obviously wrong with what I was doing because I was getting bad results from good data. This trauma led to transformation in two different ways: my process and my perspective.

In terms of process, I admittedly had little idea what I was doing with basketball research and had a very poor process for developing lineups. As I’ve witnessed personally, and as Drew mentioned in the premium chat this week, most people still don’t work from projections. They take a look at matchups, Vegas totals, a few offensive stats, and maybe some injury news. They then make vague decisions based on their vague information. I on the other hand had wonderful projections to work with as a basis, but wasn’t using them well. I wasn’t putting enough thought into matchups, game environment, variability is specific players scoring due to skill sets, and other important information. I was simply relying on numbers removed from their contexts with which to create lineups. That kind of ignorance was obviously a recipe for mediocrity and failure.

My process now includes a close look at Vegas game totals. I look for high scoring game environments that may lead to overtime or large point spreads which may lead to limited minutes for starters. I examine player’s specific skill sets and statistics to determine which plays may have more or less volatility involved. I am getting to know the teams and players to the extent that I know what their matchups look like generally without having to redo the research everyday. I look at the projections from two other reputable sites as a sober second thought to the DailyRoto projections that I work from primarily. It certainly takes a little more time and effort, but I am now firmly of the opinion that to do any less is to opt for failure.

The other thing that needed a transformation was my perspective when looking at the data in front of me. Like my Christmas present that I was SURE was a Sega Genesis, I was reaching certain conclusions because I was looking at the data wrong. The DailyRoto guys have put together a great tutorial on how to use the projections page, but I want to give you my take on how to use the projections.

Previously, I got to the projections page and immediately clicked on the “Value” tab:

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After all, what we all really what is the most possible value in our lineups right? I could simply target the top 15 dark green segmented players in the projections, click “Optimize Now” and be given a lineup using all the best value plays of the night. GIVE ME MY MONEY! With this perspective, it was seemingly obvious who the best plays were by just going down the line of green boxes. Try to fit in Westbrook, Harden and Gianis. Reggie Jackson and Iman Shumpert are the obvious value plays with yellow point projections and still green value boxes. Voila!

Yet, it didn’t work. Night after night, it didn’t work.

The issue I found was that using this kind of sorting gave me no perspective. I had no real concept of positional scarcity or value. I didn’t understand where the different tiers broke down positionally. I didn’t look close enough at how much fragility was baked into a given player’s projection on a given night. Reggie Jackson and Iman Shumpert have a ton of volatility in their projections, but it’s not obvious from simply looking at the page. It was a lazy process that was only made worse by the illusion of looking at “value”.

The night everything clicked was when I stopped clicking on the “value” tab and changed my perspective by looking at the data differently. I now start my look at the numbers, going position by position, and sorting by “Salary” instead. It may seem like a small change, but sometimes it is small changes in perspective that lead to Transformational Change.

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This lets me see where the value is clumped together at different tiers at each position. I can see how far I’d have to pay up or could pay down at position and still get a player in a good spot. Ideally this is some of what the BetaOptimizer does, but taking the thinking out of lineup construction was killing me. Now I’m forced to consider what is worth paying for and it has led to much better results. It also got me out of the mindset of “Green-Or-Bust” when it came to player evaluation. I can now see that there are certainly good reasons to use players with a neutral or yellow projection if their salary allows you access to players at an even better value at a different position. It’s essentially the old axiom of addition by subtraction: being willing to take a seeming loss in one place to get a greater gain in another.

As I’ll get to in my bankroll update below, these relatively simple transformations in process and perspective have led to much improved results.

Bankroll Update

Entry fees this week:

  • DraftKings:     $117
  • FanDuel:         $21
  • Total:              $138

Winnings this week:

  • DraftKings:     $201.21
  • FanDuel:         $98 + 3 x $4 Tickets
  • Total:              $299.21

Net this week: +$161.21
Bankroll: $359.01

Well, what a difference one week makes. A week ago, I was huddled in my frigid basement office, bemoaning the death and desolation of a wintery grave while mired in fully metastasized tilt and now I’ve nearly doubled my original bankroll. Such is the life cycle of the Dailyonus Degenicus – the scientific name for DFS players. A week ago, I wondered if I could really ever make this work, but having put the work into developing a comfortable process this week really seems to have paid off. I’m not deluded enough to think that this kind of a week is the new normal, but it certainly is nice to find some success just in time for last minute gift shopping.

If you’ve been following along with me here this season and haven’t tried your hand at the game yet, be sure to advantage of our offer of One Free Week of NBA Premium over Christmas week. You’ll get access to all the projections, articles, premium chat, and up to the minute roster update emails that I’ve been mentioning all season. No strings attached. No credit card necessary. No future commitments. You’re going to watch the NBA games on Christmas day anyways, so what a perfect time to be able to get a leg up on the competition by using our premium products to enter the Christmas specials on FanDuel and DraftKings.

Merry Christmas everyone and good luck in all your holiday special contests!

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